Ross-shire Journal 27.3.98
"Good news for Far North Line"
Friends of The Far North Line chairman John Melling has welcomed the Government's rural transport initiative. Mr. Melling said rural train services should also benefit and called for an improved rail service between Inverness and Tain with bus connections to and from Dornoch.
He said, "The Dingwall to Inverness commuter train is already proving a success and should be extended further north. Greater use should be made of the railway between Wick and Thurso and active consideration be given to re-introducing a fourth train on the Far North Line." He added that a co-ordinated public transport system in the Highlands was essential.
Daily Telegraph 2.5.98
A puncture? Phone the train.
Cyclists who travel on Anglia Railways, paying £1 per bike, will benefit from a rescue-and-repair service introduced this week. In association with the Environmental Transport Association, Anglia has set up a telephone hotline that will arrange puncture repairs on the spot or transport to the nearest railway station or repair shop. All the cyclist has to do is produce a valid ticket."And I suppose if people get just a bit worn out, they could hitch a lift in the van," said a spokesman.
Are you paying attention, ScotRail?
The Ross-shire Journal dated 6.3.98 contained several articles relating to the new commuter service. There was a very positive Editorial highlighting highlighting the importance of the service. Regular contributor Roddy Maclean in his "My Point of View" gave his opinion as did reporter Jackie Mackenzie in her piece "New Dingwall train - use it or lose it", picking up the catch phrase used by ScotRail Managing Director.
ScotRail Press Release - 16.5.98
The Freedom of Scotland Travelpass has come down in price from £110 to £93 for eight days out of fifteen, and now includes several Scottish CityLink coach routes such as Oban - Campbeltown and Oban - Fort William - Inverness. which complement the rail network. Inclusion of the Oban - Fort William - Inverness route has enabled ScotRail to combine the previously separate West and North Highland Rover tickets at the virtually unaltered price of £42 for four days out of eight.
Highland Days out fares are valid in both directions, and also include routes out of Inverness to Aviemore (£15), Kyle of Lochalsh (£30), Invershin (£15), Helmsdale (£20), Thurso and Wick (both £35).
ScotRail's Table Topping Performance. 11.5.98
ScotRail train services are the most punctual in Britain - that's official.
The facts are revealed among the latest rail performance statistics issued today by the Office of Passenger Rail Franchising (OPRAF). They put ScotRail atop the punctuality 'league table'.
They also confirm that, by showing a performance improvement up on both 1996/97 and 1995/96 when OPRAF records began, ScotRail is bucking a national trend OPRAF's Director John O'Brien describes as 'disappointing'. The OPRAF bulletin measures performance of the 25 Train Operating Companies during the quarter and also offers comparison for the whole of 1997/8 with 1996/7. Of 53 UK train service groups assessed, 35 had got worse, one had stayed the same and only 17 had shown improvement. All five of ScotRail's main service groupings were among that 17.
During the twelve months ended March 31st 96.4% of ScotRail Highland services arrived within 10 minutes of schedule - 0.6% up on 96/97 and 4.4% above Charter Standard target revised upwards in September.
ScotRail has also taken steps to improve compensation when things go wrong. In January, the one hour qualification threshold of redress for delay was lowered. Now passengers can expect payment vouchers if their train is more than 30 minutes late. The level of compensation has also been increased from 20% to 50%.
Executive, April 1998.
Extracts from "Making tracks in the Highlands", Frank Roach, Highland rail consultant.
Frank Roach and fellow rail consultant, Dan McGrory have three key objectives, freight, passenger and heritage. "Undoubtedly the greatest scope for rail potential lies in freight. Each day two freight trains depart from Inverness one via Aberdeen and one via Aviemore. The days of British Rail turning away loads that could not form a whole train are way behind us. With the delivery of 250 locomotives and 2000 new wagons starting soon, reliability and availability will be second to none. Why the success in the north? We are fortunate in having a lot of the infrastructure from the old railway still in place: sidings, loading banks and the like, which have all but disappeared in other parts of the UK; and a road network that has yet to be fully upgraded, if ever. We shall soon see the completion of a new siding at Kyle, paid for by Highland Council and EWS." (Editor's note - opening will be in June.)
"... two areas of concern; the journey time to Edinburgh and the departure time as it is impossible to arrive in the capital before 10.13am. A study is underway in Fife which, if implemented, may ease the speed restrictions beyond Perth. If the journey time can be cut to three hours, it might beat the queues at the Forth Road Bridge. How nice it would be for passengers arriving off an Austrian charter flight to pick up the train at a new Dalcross halt for travel to Inverness or towards Aberdeen."
Grampian Television news; 25.3.98
Frank Spaven was interviewed about his views on the announcement of extra funding for the railways and how he felt it would effect the Far North.
Aberdeen Press and Journal article, by Willie Morrison.
The success of the new morning commuter train between Dingwall and Inverness has encouraged ScotRail to consider reopening a halt at Beauly, after a gap of nearly 40 years. The company confirmed yesterday that it has asked Railtrack to assess the costs of bringing the stop into use.
There is no prospect of the old station building being brought back into operation, however. The Victorian building, which includes a former private waiting room of the Lords Lovat, was closed in June 1960, even before Dr. Beeching wielded his axe, has long since been converted into two flats. The favoured option is to set up a halt on the still extant former northbound platform, opposite the old station building.
This proposal is the brainchild of Frank Roach, development officer for Highland Rail Developments, who argues that the commuter train would transport passengers from Beauly to Inverness in 13 minutes, compared with a bus journey of 30 minutes. He said, "I've submitted the proposal to ScotRail and they seem very pleased and are to look at it in greater detail. The success of the Dingwall commuter train was beyond their expectations."
Beauly Highland Councillor, Garry Coutts, who coincidentally lives in part of the old station building, said, "I would be absolutely delighted to see a halt at Beauly. It would be good for the village and for the area, but I'd want to see the plans."
ScotRail managing director Alastair McPherson announced the latest initiative at a meeting of the Highland Rail Network Development Partnership in Inverness, where he also confirmed that the Dingwall - Inverness commuter service would keep running for at least a year. The service which leaves Dingwall at 8am, was introduced on march 2 for a four month trial and carries an average of 50 commuters daily. Mr. McPherson said "These loadings are successful enough for us to extend the trial period to may next year." He said ScotRail would follow up the initial fares promotion of a 10-journey pass for £10 with a permanent 10-journey flexipass for £15 - "a price we believe is excellent value for money". Mr. McPherson also announced a series of fares initiatives and a two-year sponsorship deal with Inverness Caledonian Thistle FC. ScotRail's logo will appear on the team's home colours, on replica strip sold at retail outlets and on trackside advertising.
The fares initiatives include flexipasses offering 10 train journeys to Inverness from Elgin, Forres and Nairn at £45, £33 and £21 respectively, and a Highland Days Out fare of £30 return from Inverness to Kyle for two adults and two children.
A further initiative is the reinstatement of seating on the Edinburgh - Fort William sleeper trains.